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No Power to the People on School Funding

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School Funding Fiasco

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Do you care about the funding of the schools that your children or your neighbors' children attend?

Would you like to change it? If the answer is yes, let me just say you: it's awfully nice that you care about school funding.

Your views, of course, don't make a bit of difference, even if you vote.

This is California.

Now comes the news this week that education groups -- school boards, school administrators, school districts -- are challenging cuts in the state budget passed last June. 

Those cuts, they say, violate the state constitution's guarantee of a funding minimum for schools -- a guarantee enacted by voters in 1988 and 1990.

Teachers' unions aren't part of the lawsuit because they negotiated the cuts -- as part of a deal that gave teachers protections from layoffs.

The lawsuit has made headlines, and raised the possibility of more money going back to schools.

But the lawsuit is likely to drag on for years and unlikely to make impact on the school budgets.

No, the real importance of the lawsuit is as a reminder that Californians have virtually no say in how their schools are funded.

That's because we've eliminated democracy when it comes to school funding.

Instead of letting our elected representatives make decisions, we imposed a complicated formula -- that constitutional guarantee -- to govern school funding.

The lawsuit isn't a challenge that says schools don't have what they need to educate students to the best of their ability -- though that's undoubtedly true.

The lawsuit is about whether we have met the terms of constitutional guarantee. It's not about kids or education -- it's about a formula.

And it's hard to impact a formula unless you have the millions necessary to change the constitution -- or to pursue a lawsuit against it. Most Californians don't. And so we don't have a say in how our schools are funded -- and how our kids are educated.

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